Tackling clique-y activism, the hidden complexities dude-bro culture, and providing the tribute to Kegels you didn’t know you needed, the Don Valley Girls troupe performs 80 minutes of sketch comedy at The Theatre Centre. Part of Why Not Theatre’s RISER Toronto 2022, these ladies offer up a Somali/Korean/Palestinian/Pakistani-Canadian perspective as quirky spectacle.
Right out of the gate, there is an abundant, Toronto-specific atmosphere with Antonia Sinn‘s set. A ramp with miniature, graffiti-laced support columns suggests the Don Valley Parkway. Plants and stacked milk crates provide a surprisingly familiar backdrop. Their opening bit furthers this iconic TO aesthetic—TTC subway stop announcements with station names riffing on the troubles faced by modern, urban women of colour.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these ladies and appreciated their insightful observations. The gym-rats with their penis-centric podcast inadvertently revealing the vulnerable depths of their masculinity, a traditional mother coming to terms with her child’s non-binary identity, the fraught dynamics of collective protest—it’s all dripping with empathy and awareness.
Written and performed by Surer Qaly Deria, Mona Hersi, Andie Hong, Rabiya Mansoor, Fateema Al-Hamaydeh Miller, the show has structurally solid set-ups and payoffs. Director Liza Paul and lighting designer André du Toit fill the stage with colour, energy and dynamic movement. A persuasive vibe holds firm, but the full lolz often eluded me.
For comedy, I’m a hard nut to crack. The art form is so dependent on specific sensibilities. Any fusion of content and delivery that falls flat for me, could send others into hysterics. Also, even the slightest miscalculations of timing or energy can bump the delivery off its mark.
The comedic highlight for me was undoubtedly Miller’s turn as a Company Man who’s been caught dumping waste into the Don River. Slumped on a swivel chair, ass crack on full display, fake moustache peeling away from her face—it was a whole thing and it just about killed me.
Deria’s appearance as the Don River is an intriguing diversion. Serving as an extended land acknowledgement and environmental call-out, she appears three times, draped in an iridescent green cape and strewn with garbage. She’s an uncomfortably earnest presence. There are flashes of humour in the peculiar sexual references, but the tone is deliberately sombre and very affecting.
The musical element is strong, with fun references to the BTS, the Spice Girls, and Cardi B’s WAP. Though the execution could be sharper, the essential fabric of Don Valley Girls’ comedy is purposefully diverse, inclusive and very warm.